I've never had a bad experience at the Apple store. I doubt a lot of people have, which is why Apple is always tops in sales per square foot (e.g. $5,647 in 2011) and the envy of retailers everywhere.
Up until today, I assumed Apple store employees were well paid and received commissions. However, upon reading David Segal's June 23 feature in the New York Times, I was shocked to discover that a store associate who sold about $750,000 in a recent personal-best quarter was earning $11.25 an hour. That's it. No commission.
"(Although) Apple is unparalleled as a retailer, when it comes to its lowliest workers, the company is a reflection of the technology industry as a whole," Segal writes. "Most of the jobs created by technology giants are service sector positions that offer little of Silicon Valley's riches or glamour."
Still, Segal says Apple offers above average pay (above the minimum wage of $7.25, more than the Gap, and a bit less then Lululemon -- which pays about $12 an hour). Apple offers comparably good benefits, health care, 401(k) contributions and the chance to buy company stock, as well as Apple products, at a discount.
Apple is apparently planning on paying its workers more, perhaps in response to recent wage scrutiny from the media, Segal says. The company has yet to announce any official details of these raises.
Segal notes that Apple enjoys a unique level of retail success not only because of its cutting-edge in-store experience but because it has built an ultra-loyal fan base for its products. "This is why Apple can do something unique in the annals of retailing: pay a modest hourly wage, and no commission, to employees who typically have college degrees and who at the highest performing levels can move as much as $3 million in goods a year," he writes.
The products literally sell themselves and yet the salespeople are so devoted to the products that they'll sell them without a commission.
Segal says a recurring phrase in Apple store training is "enriching people's lives," which isn't surprising given Apple's effective product marketing -- Apple ads are always bent on showing you how the new technology will make your life easier and make using Apple products more enjoyable. "(Apple) understands that lot of people will forgo money if they have a sense of higher purpose," Segal writes.
In the end, no matter how underappreciated or underpaid Apple store employees may feel, the fact of the matter is: HR supply exceeds demand, Segal adds. For all of the reasons listed above, there are more fan boys and fan girls leaving resumés at Apple stores than there are open positions. And as previously mentioned, the products basically sell themselves.